Suffering in Silence

Kerry Stott II  24  NOV 2016

Male suicide is a silent epidemic. According to the Samaritan Suicide Statistic Report 2016, men account for a shocking 75% of cases. Numbers are at their highest since 2001, with younger men aged between 45-59 being the most at risk. There were  6,708 suicides in the UK in 2013, with 19.0 deaths per 100,000 for men and 5.1 per 100,000 for women. The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) website calculated this death rate at 12 deaths per day. A staggering statistic.

However, we may be underestimating the problem. Suicide is something which is grossly under reported, in part due to coroners only being able to declare it such if it is 'beyond doubt'. Borderline cases may fly under the radar  with suicides are attributed  as 'undetermined intent' or 'accidental'.  We may be seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Why are men so at risk from dying in this way? Any answer is by nature is multi faceted and complex.
One of the reasons suggested that male rates are so much higher is that men choose methods of dying that are final, or difficult to be revived from. When it comes to suicide, men are violent and impulsive. All of which makes very sombre reading.

‘Male predominant’ personality factors such as having to meet the needs and expectation of others, and brooding on negative thoughts. The identification of what it is to 'be a man', particularly for working class men; is masculinity being associated with control. The perceived loss of this ‘control’ can be predictive.

Dr. Brene Brown in her Ted Talk about Shame  discusses how the perception of being vulnerable or weak for men is shameful and set in stone. She advocates taking a compassionate stance and really listening to each other, with empathy being the antidote to shame.  It is a stark contrast to the status quo.

Men who are depressed are likely to self medicate with drugs and alcohol.  Instead of helping, this behaviour can often lower inhibitions and increase impulsivity, a known risk factor for suicide. Relationship breakdowns are also highly contributory. The Men, Suicide and Society report  stated that men being disrespected or having their honour tarnished by a partner being unfaithful or being abandoned by them is another contributing factor.

Professor Green in his documentary Suicide and Me takes a very honest look at his father’s suicide. He stated that it led him to feel anger, confusion, and an aching sadness. Profession Green has arguably done more to highlight male suicide and depression in men in recent years than anyone else. Having a rapper talking openly about his feelings has allowed others to share this everyman story. It may be fitting that a musician who portrays strength can portray emotion too.

November is Male Health Awareness Month. Male suicide requires attention, conversation and action. There are joint strategies to reduce the death rate but there also need to be a cultural change for men to be able to talk to each other openly and honestly.

I worry that this article will highlight a problem that persists for years to come, but we can make changes now. Perhaps it is time to be more like Professor Green and speak openly.


The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention 2015

Bilsker, D. (2011). The Silent Epidemic of Male Suicide. British Columbia Medical Journal. Vol 53 No 10 Pp 529-534.

Men, Suicide and Society Report 2015

Suicide Statistics Report 2015.

Brene Brown Ted Talk on Shame

Professor Green: Suicide and Me